The East Coast Trail is a much different trail than I've hiked before. It weaves 540 km along the coastline, in and out of 32 communities. It isn't really meant to be backpacked, but rather to stop at B&B's in between sections. It's very much a cultural hike. You get to see some scenery during the day, then experience some of the local fare at night. You can mix it up by doing a boat or kayaking tour, see a local dinner theatre, or go to a pub. We hiked a few sections of the trail, but also spent some time in St. John's itself.
We began our tour of Newfoundland with a foggy walk around Fort Amherst, Quidi Vidi, and Signal Hill.
Afterwards, we checked in at our B&B at Bay Bulls and did some hiking along the coastline. This is where the "Spout Path" section begins.
I was very happy with the food and accommodations there. The staff and owner were very nice and helpful, especially with my wife who has celiac disease. The couple upstairs seemed to be really enjoying the experience too. She kept saying “yes” over and over again. Her companion seemed to be having a nice evening too, as we could hear him grunting his approval at her exclamations. On second thought, the walls could have been a bit thicker.
We hiked a pretty section of trail from Aquaforte to Ferryland. There is a nice little waterfall at the beginning of "Mudder Wet Path." The forested areas were quite pretty in areas too. I was glad I packed my tripod "just in case."
The sun came out for the first time as we descended the "Sounding Hills Path" from the headlands down into Ferryland. We capped off the hike with a great picnic lunch at the lighthouse. You place your order at the lighthouse, and they give you a blanket and flag, and tell you to go find a nice place on the grass. When your food is ready, they bring your food out to your flag. Neat concept, and very popular. Great homemade lemonade, sandwiches, and ganache. Here's the view:
Then, we returned to Cape Broyle for an afternoon kayak tour with Stan Cook Sea Kayaking Adventures. Highly recommended. Even though it pissed rain and we didn't see any whales, it was still a blast. The whales follow the capelin, which hadn't moved into the bay yet. It's easy to spot whales, though, because all you need to do is look for the sea birds circling and diving. Poor fish get it from both sides.
We went for a morning boat tour to Gull Island from Bay Bulls with O'Brian's Tours. We had great luck to follow a humpback whale all the way out to the island. It showed us a couple terminal dives but no breaching.
And then we saw the puffins. Just the coolest little birds ever. There were common murre, gulls, and assorted other seabirds nesting on the island.
In the afternoon, we hiked the "Beaches Path" from Mobile to Witless Bay. I really enjoyed this section. We saw a bald eagle, which we Albertans don't see that often, and some whales in the bay too.
They also had some well maintained boardwalks through here.
We worked our way by car back to St. John's. We stopped at Petty Harbour with nice morning light. The sun disappeared permanently for the rest of the day. We toured through Cape Spear, then Middle Cove and Quidi Vidi before making our way to the hotel. We went to Shamrock City Pub that evening after a great dinner at Yellowbelly's.
The weather wasn't good enough to justify hiking in the morning, so we went to the Geo Centre, which was excellent too. We did a lot of walking around the city during the day, stopped at the Pepper Mill for a good dinner, then up to the Battery and Signal Hill again for the fireworks. The sunset at the Battery was very nice. We went back to Shamrock City for some entertainment after the Canada Day celebrations. I learned that when in Newfoundland, a whole different language starts being spoken when the drinks are flowing. I have no idea what the guys were talking about half the time. They were friendly as shit though. One bearded fellow was wearing a t-shirt that read “I pull out.” He seemed less classy than his buddies.
We started the day with a terrific breakfast at the Bagel Company. I had granola french toast with strawberries and bananas, whipped cream, syrup. The hashbrowns were the best I've ever had, and the sausages were good too. I didn't eat again until supper. Shaun Majumder was in the booth next to us, but I resisted the temptation to beat him down with some schtick. We also saw one of the characters from the Republic of Doyle. I pet her dog.
We took the boat tour from the harbour. It wasn't as good as the one in Bay Bulls. We saw some whales, but not as close. Some white-sided dolphins approached the boat, but I couldn't get a good picture of them because you could never predict where they would surface. It was nice to see Cape Spear out of the fog, though. Gannets were diving for capelin off the cape but we didn't get close enough.
We ended the day with a very good dinner at Get Stuffed, and I took a few night-time shots on the way back to the hotel.
After this trip, I have the following conclusions:
1) Everyone says that the people in Newfoundland are the greatest, which is true; however, it seems to extend beyond the locals, to all the people from around the world that visit The Rock. I've never had so many conversations with other tourists. Everyone seemed eager and open to share their traveling experiences with a stranger, as if the hospitality of our hosts had rubbed off on us a bit.
2) I think the Canadian media has painted Newfoundland with the shit brush over the years. They're doing fine out there, despite all the imagery of the impoverished fisherman. There's more affluence than I expected. The offshore oil industry is blowing my mind.
3) Danny Williams may very well surpass Great Big Sea on the popularity meter out there.
4) Everyone should visit Newfoundland. It's an awesome place, just like everyone says. I can't wait to go back and see the west side of the island.